BENGALURU: The Covid-19 technical advisory committee (
) may advise the government to reintroduce the imposition of penalty on people for not wearing face masks. Reason: The latest genomic sequencing of swab samples has confirmed that the present spike in infections is driven by
sublineages BA.4 and BA.5 and has indicated further upsurge.
Officials from the health department said the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) sent a report on Tuesday confirming the detection of BA.4 and BA.5 sublineages of Omicron, following the genomic sequencing of multiple swab samples of positive individuals. In a first step, the state government conducted sewage sequencing that gave the primary indication of the presence of BA.4 and BA.5. Then, the samples with low CT values were subjected to genomic sequencing before sending the results to INSACOG.
“New variants BA3, BA4 and BA5 are observed to be in their nascent phases,” tweeted health minister K Sudhakar, indicating the possibility of an increase in infection spread.
His tweet said the sublineages of Omicron BA1.1.529 and BA1 that caused the third wave in January have dipped to 8.6% and 0.04%, respectively, and BA2 has increased from 80.6% to 89.4% since May 2022.
As per the genomic sequencing, the Delta variant was dominant (90.7%) during the second wave between March 2021 and December 2021 and Omicron dominated (87.8%) the surge of the third wave between January 2022 and April 2022. BA.4 and BA.5 triggered the present surge from mid-May.
With the advent of the new sublineages, daily cases witnessed a steady increase — the number of new infections went up from 178 on May 31 to 738 on June 20.
‘Further rise expected’
“This data indicates the new sublineages have been around since May and there will be a further surge in infection. As it is expected to last for two months since inception, the present surge may start tapering down from July-end, while the severity of infection remains low,” said TAC chairman Dr MK Sudarshan.
However, there is no indication of a fresh wave as there is no new variant of the virus as such. Although the severity of infection caused by the sublineages is expected to be low, they may cause serious illness in patients with comorbidities and chronic illnesses in those over the age of 70. As an indicator of this, three deaths were reported in June and hospitalisation cases rose to 52.
Taking a serious note of the development, the government has asked TAC to come up with fresh guidelines. While the panel will meet on Thursday, an advisory is expected on strict enforcement of Covid-appropriate behaviour with fine for not using mask and a widespread vaccination drive to administer the booster dose.